SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah State Board of Education's leadership formally reprimanded controversial board member Natalie Cline over social media posts she has made about LGBTQ children, according to a letter obtained by FOX 13 under a public records request.
The Board of Education took the extra step of voting to affirm the letter during a closed session of their meeting Thursday.
"Since being sworn in as a Board member approximately eight months ago, you have engendered controversy, frustration, and anger toward the Board, certain schools, certain educators, and certain student populations with statements you have posted on your social media regarding our LGBTQIA+ community," said the letter, signed by Board Chair Mark Huntsman and Vice-Chairs Laura Belnap and Cindy Davis.
“Just as a board member, we thought it was out of bounds and not necessary," Huntsman told Fox 13 during an interview Friday. "And it did kind of incite some different behavior that was unacceptable.”
The letter, dated August 24, invokes a social media post Cline made about a photo posted online depicting an LGBTQ flag at a Layton Latter-day Saint seminary. She posted a comment saying "the world is too much with us," which prompted another person to post: "Time to get out our muskets," in reference to a recent speech by a Latter-day Saint leader about LGBTQ issues.
But some took it as a suggestion of violence, the letter said, including the Davis School District.
“The district, they chose-- all in the name of safety and that-- to up security in schools and around the seminary," Huntsman explained.
"This happened because of your post," the letter said. "This is not the first time your social media posts have incited threats toward educators and students. Nor is it the first time your comments have caused LEA administrators, educators, and parents to criticize the Board."
“It has not been helpful to have this divisive, targeting, exclusionary rhetoric out there that has been so far left unchecked," said Heidi Matthews, President of the Utah Education Association.
Matthews said it's difficult for a student to feel safe at school when bullied by peers, but that it's unconscionable when that behavior comes from an adult who is an elected official.
She said it does not help teachers create a welcoming environment.
“This was a bold step in staying true to their resolutions and then assuring that our students have those safe environments, that our educators are backed, and that our state board is being very clear that this is the expectation," Matthews said.
Huntsman explained that Cline is supposed to include a disclaimer on her posts stating they are not reflective of USBE views.
Normally, all of her posts contain the line, "[Not official USBE Board position]," but this particular one didn't include that which was found to be in violation of USBE bylaws.
“It does have a negative reflection on the board without that disclaimer,” Huntsman said.
He said that it's not required for USBE members to take action on affirming the letter, but they wanted to come forward to do so.
FOX 13 is told the full board voted on Thursday to support the letter of reprimand to Cline on a 12-2 vote (with Cline and Jennie Earl) opposing it. James Moss abstained from the vote.
“The intent of this letter was just to give Board Member Cline, let her know of our concerns and then also what we perceived as a violation to our bylaws,” Huntsman said.
"Besides injuring our LGBTQIA+ community, your social media posts have also brought injury upon the Board. That is why we have taken this unprecedent [sic] action of sending you a letter of reprimand. We hope that in the future you would be more circumspect and mindful of all of Utah’s students when posting about sensitive issues," the letter said.
The letter does not call for any other action in regards to Cline or her social media posts.
Cline did not respond to phone call, text or email sent by Fox 13 staff, or to a message from FOX 13 seeking comment through a school board spokesperson.
The Utah State Board of Education has faced public pushback from supporters and detractors of Cline's, who is known for her very conservative stances on social media. Recently, a petition was launched demanding to "recall" her, even though Utah has no recall laws for an elected official.
On the reprimand, the letter said the Board is "unaware of any such action being previously taken against a Board member until now."
Read the letter to Cline here: